My co-worker and I are sitting on the terrace in the pale blue glow of our computer screens when all of a sudden a little figure emerges from the dark and runs towards us. Marc gives us each a hug and then stands behind us to watch us working. The 9-year old boy does not need many words to say a lot. Usually his reply to any question is a single word followed by a bright smile. He exudes calm and, as my colleague said, "he appears wise". Marc's presence made me wonder what his story was.
I got to know Marc by the name of "Chiquito" (spanish: small). He is the youngest of a group of children that rehearses a choreography on Saturdays. At one show a few weeks ago he was apparently the only child dancing in a group of SOS youth, all significantly older than him. Marc likes dancing - everyone can see that. To the question whether he would like to be a professional dancer he replies with a simple "yes". Asked for his career aspiration, though, he says "doctor".
Nine years ago Marc was brought to the SOS Children’s Village in Santo as a baby, barely a month old. He grew up in one of the 19 family houses with his SOS mother Wilna amongst his SOS brothers and sisters. Wilna is retired by now but she still visits the family and keeps in touch with her former SOS children - just as any part of the family would.
Today, Marc shares his house with eight other boys, seven girls, two SOS aunties and his SOS mother Lannecie. Before the earthquake he lived here with seven siblings. Then, the house filled with 28 children and now, after some children could be reunited with their biological families, Marc is one of 16 kids in the SOS family house. He likes being here, and he especially likes playing soccer with the other children. Marc shoots all of this at me in characteristic one-word answers to my questions. He is striker, he adds.
Four of the children who came to live in his house after the earthquake on 12 January 2010, are now living in the temporary shelters that have been set up on the premises of the SOS Children’s Village in Santo. Each of the prefabricated houses is a home to five children and one SOS auntie, four houses make a unit and share housework tasks like cooking and cleaning. Mum Lannecie tells us that those children still come to visit her and the other children. As she describes her SOS child Marc, she smiles: "Well, he’s very intelligent. He likes studying, he’s good at school. He writes poems. Marc is a good boy, he will be successful".
The first paragraph of this blog was written in a corner of the SOS School, where I temporarily use a desk as my working place. I was interrupted by a visitor: Marc came to me, bringing me his smile again. I did a short word-by-word interview with him: "Don’t you have classes?". Marc: "Yes", smile. "Where is your classroom?" Marc points at one of the tents in front of the school building: "there", smile. "And what will you do in the afternoon?" - Marc: "Work", smile. "What kind of work?" - Marc: "Homework", smile. "I am also working." - Marc "Yes". He keeps smiling at me for a few moments before he says goodbye and runs back to his class.